Summary: There are many sources that we seek approval from, but our greatest desire should be that God approve our actions, attitudes and words.
LIVING A GOD-APPROVED LIFE
We might say trying to win approval from others consumes our lives. We do what our bosses require so that they might approve us and therefore give us our paycheck. Children seek approval from their parents. This means a lot to them and leads to a healthy self-esteem. When very small, children go to great lengths to gain approval from their parents. We live in such a way that we gain approval from the laws of our land and thereby stay out of jail or avoid paying fines for behavior not recognized by society. Churches are not exempt from seeking approval. The pastor must seek approval for certain things he does as well as do individuals in the church. Committees must have the approval of the church on the decisions they make. In school, we approve the grades of students so that they might pass the course or graduate from high school. We often just merely seek approval from others for our actions and attitudes simply because we want to be liked and accepted. We desire unity. Perhaps we want admiration. When our State Convention meets, messengers give their approval to suggested resolutions and people elected to certain positions. If they do not, the resolutions would not pass and the people would not be elected. When we think about it, approving or being approved takes much of our time.
In spite of this, we should desire the approval of God above all others. Our goal and aim in life should be to gain his approval. His is the final approval. His is the approval that counts. Without his approval, we are at risk of eternal separation from him. Without his approval, we cannot have forgiveness.
Paul sought the approval of God. He received it but failed to receive the endorsement of many of his contemporaries. You will remember that the Judaizers hounded his footsteps seeking to undercut his authority as an apostle and to destroy his credentials. They sought sanction from God by obeying the ceremonies and traditions of the Mosaic law now outdated by the work of Christ. They tried diligently to get others to seek approval from God in the same way. In these verses, Paul continues to defend himself against the accusations of the Judaizers. In doing so, he alludes to the way we live a God-approved life.
I. LISTEN FOR GOD TO SPEAK
Before alluding to this matter, Paul tells a little of his background. Paul had little contact with the apostles during the first years after his conversion. It was not until three years after his Damascus Road encounter that he saw any of them, and this was only briefly. He met Peter and James. He later went to Jerusalem for a second time. It was during this second visit that he helped Barnabas take a collection to Jerusalem from the church at Antioch.
For seventeen years, Paul preached the gospel without any human instruction. His message came directly from God. After his first missionary journey, he and Barnabas returned to Antioch. Here they reported of the Gentile conversion. It came by the grace of God through faith. This report upset the Jewish legalists in Judea. They in turn went to Antioch to teach that a Gentile had to become a Jewish proselyte before becoming a Christian.
Along with Barnabas and Paul went Titus. He was the spiritual child and co-worker of Paul. Paul probably went to Jerusalem to attend the council where it would be decided what a Gentile must do to become a Christian. Titus was an uncircumcised Gentile. He was a product of Paul's ministry, the ministry the Judaizers were criticizing.
The reason Paul went to Jerusalem was because of a revelation from God. Otherwise, he might not have gone. When he arrived, he submitted to the people the gospel he preached to the Gentiles. It was the gospel that all people are saved by trusting in Jesus through faith and because of God's grace. It did not involve observing ceremonies and traditions now outdated by the work of Christ. This report did not please some of the Pharisees. They believed it necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and have them obey the Law of Moses. It was Peter who declared to them that God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas were certain that God had saved the Gentiles because he accompanied their belief with signs and wonders. The matter of what requirements to place on the Gentiles was settled at the Jerusalem Council.
Having Titus along to prove the saving grace of Christ to the Gentiles was proof that the revelation from God that Paul preached was true. He listened for God to speak to him, and then he spoke God's word to others. It was because of a revelation from God that Paul was willing to go to Jerusalem to confront those who were teaching salvation to Jew and Gentile alike by works. He listened for God to speak and acted accordingly.